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My first child was an unplanned pregnancy, and before he was born, his father and I decided to try living together. After our son was born, he told me he wanted to have more kids, and when I asked if that meant he wanted to commit to our relationship, he told me no.

He's wavered some in the last three years over committing - he even gave me a ring at one point. However, this spring I again became accidentally pregnant and I pushed the issue, with the result that he came out forcefully opposed to marrying/formally committing to me - though he is very excited about the baby and still wants to have more.

At this point we are living in different states, but neither of us like that situation, because he doesn't get to be around our son. He wants me to move to where he is and live with him again before our second son is born in three-ish months, but remains adamantly opposed to committing to me. I'm not sure what to do. Moving to where he is would put us a lot closer to both of our families, which would be a good thing, and it would give both of my sons a better chance to have good relationships with their dad, which might be more important.

I guess the only reasons I'm hesitating are personal emotional reasons, mainly that I dread the pain of constantly being with someone who doesn't care for me a tenth part of what I care for him, and I fear becoming completely financially dependent on someone who could very easily leave me at any time. But is it worth making those sacrifices for our children to get to have both parents around?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it's about grown relationships, not parenting. – Erik Jun 27 '17 at 8:53
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    I disagree - it skims the edges, but I think it should qualify as parenting question, since it asks how important it is for children to have their biological father living with them. – Pascal Jun 27 '17 at 9:13
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    If he wants to live with and support his children then maybe you should allow him BUT don't sleep with him unless he fully commits. This seems to be fair on both counts. – Snowlockk Jun 27 '17 at 9:32
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    Pascal has decent advice. I will go further though and say it seems he is easily getting the good parts of a relationship with you (physical is one, but i mean other parts too) while being able to ignore and hide from the rest. He also lives in another state? Kids need a dad so I hope that can work out for them. But it sounds like he is using you for his convenience. And, it also sounds like he is still a boy and not a man. I can say that because I was a boy until about 30. I'm sorry for your situation as a single mother who needs to have someone she can count on, but doesn't. – Adam Heeg Jun 27 '17 at 15:27
  • Does he want to contribute equally to the cost of the household and the cost of raising the children, or is he just looking for a cheap place to live? – gnasher729 Jun 30 '17 at 20:05
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There are a lot of statistical correlations between having two-parent families and positive outcomes for the children (meaning it seems to be better for children to live with both biological parents than with just one).

However, these are just correlations, and we don't know much about the actual causes which lead to these positive effects. I can very well imagine that an atmosphere of trust, commitment and the pooling of resources has something to do with it. These things remain in question in your case.

It seems to me that it's important to figure out why marriage is not an option for your partner. What exactly is he proposing? He wants to have more children with you, which makes me think he wants a to continue his relationship with you. Why then does he not formally commit to this relationship? Marriage is not just a commitment to a partner, but also a commitment to the children. At least where I live (outside the US), marriage automatically leads to both legal fatherhood of children born in that marriage and financial responsibilities towards them.

I would try to figure out which part of marriage he doesn't want to commit to. If he won't commit to legal fatherhood and the financial consequences, I'd be very worried. If he just doesn't want to marry because it has a fiscal or otherwise negative impact on some part of both your lives, I'd be much more willing to accept alternatives. But even if I accepted living with him unmarried, I'd make very sure that there is a legally binding agreement about who takes how much care of the children, how you make important decisions concerning your family (e.g. what happens if one of you wants to move? how will you decide where to send your kids to school? what happens if one of your kids gets sick and needs surgery? etc) and who provides how much financial support. This will also help in making sure that you don't become fully financially dependent on him - you can both agree that you might reduce your job to part-time work, but you won't quit working, and you'll both share household work and taking care of the kids.

This might all sound very harsh, but I think it's necessary to talk about these things up front, for several reasons:

  • Your partner's unwillingness to marry might be caused by diffuse fear of "locking himself in", or an unwillingness to think about how his life will actually change when there are kids around, and how much work they will cause. So talking about these things up front will force him to figure out if he actually wants to commit or not, and that's better to find out now than five years down the road.

  • Such a contract is not there for the sunny times, but exists to protect both of you when there is trouble. Usually, this contract is provided by marriage. If he doesn't want to marry, you'll still need to talk and decide about these things because while children might profit from a father living with them, I'm absolutely convinced that they need stable environments much more, and these can't be provided without commitment.

Finally, I wouldn't ignore your emotions in this. If you don't think you can live together because your love for each other is very asymmetric, then I would think very hard before moving in together. I would also counsel against having more children with your partner unless you're sure it's the right thing to do, and frankly if you're having doubts about moving together, it doesn't sound like you're ready to have more children with him.

Also think about alternatives - you could move closer to him without moving together, which would still give him access to the kids. And you can discuss a contract for child support apart from the question of where you live.

  • Statistical analysis can be used to lie just as easily as to show some meagre tidbit of truth. – user2497 Jun 28 '17 at 8:40
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    That's hyperbole - serious statistical analysis is a valuable tool and can often serve as evidence. Misrepresentation of statistical data is a problem. And that's why I explicitly mention the difference between correlations and causes. – Pascal Jun 28 '17 at 11:57
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when I asked if that meant he wanted to commit to our relationship, he told me no.

That, to me, is a huge red flag. Even if it weren't a romantic relationship, he's having kids with you and therefore should make some sort of commitment to you (note -- it doesn't have to be a romantic relationship or marriage). Relationships of every sort are built on a foundation of mutual trust. If you don't have that trust, you don't have a relationship, you have a house of cards.

He wants me to move to where he is and live with him again before our second son is born in three-ish months, but remains adamantly opposed to committing to me...He's wavered some in the last three years over committing - he even gave me a ring at one point. However, this spring I again became accidentally pregnant and I pushed the issue, with the result that he came out forcefully opposed to marrying/formally committing to me

Red flag number two. This is evidence of controlling behavior. He's stringing you along. Moving, especially interstate, is an act of commitment on your part, an act he's not willing to make himself. At the very, very least, this is a one-sided situation.

mainly that I dread the pain of constantly being with someone who doesn't care for me a tenth part of what I care for him, and I fear becoming completely financially dependent on someone who could very easily leave me at any time

Red flags three and four. You can't control what other people do. You need to take care of yourself, first, so that you can take care of your kids. Staying with someone that you know causes you stress, fear, and anxiety isn't good for either you or your kids.

The fact that you have no confidence in him staying and fear becoming dependent on him is a huge indicator that your relationship is built on nothing. Again, there needs to be a foundation of trust or there's nothing.

He certainly treats our son well, and when it comes to treatment of me... well, I will admit that he has been much better the last few weeks...He has definitely become disproportionately angry during disagreements in the past and said cruel things to me, and I'm not sure whether it has crossed the line into abuse or not

Red flags number five and six. At the very least, he has anger management issues and that affects not only your relationship, but the development of your kids.

I can't tell you whether your situation is abuse, per se, but I will tell you that abuse comes in many forms and that it's insidious, precisely because the abuser doesn't do it all the time (this is known as the cycle of abuse).

Additionally, just because he's currently treating your son well now, that doesn't mean that will continue or that he hasn't already displayed that toxic behavior toward your son. Consider his behavior toward you as foreshadowing of his behavior toward your kids as they get older.

I'd say partly they don't get to see much of me when we're together, but they are also angry that he has not committed, and they feel that our participation in the relationship and the duties of childrearing have always been extremely unequal.

Red flags seven and eight.

Childrearing is a team effort. "It takes a village to raise a child" is not hyperbole. If it's that noticeably one-sided, there are fundamental problems with your relationship that need addressed.

Regarding your friends not getting to see you, you'll have to assess this one for yourself to be sure, but based on what you've said here, I'm marking it as a red flag. Isolation is a control behavior in abusive/toxic relationships. What makes it hard to pinpoint is that reduced socializing with a group of people is very easy to justify (need couple/family time, don't want to deal with people, etc), and total isolation happens slowly. Be mindful of this as a pattern when you assess your path.

But is it worth making those sacrifices for our children to get to have both parents around?

In short, no.

A multiple-parent household is good for many reasons. However, a toxic environment is a toxic environment and blood relation doesn't overcome poison. A child is far better off in a single parent environment than in a toxic multi-parent environment.

At the very least, it sounds like you two want different things from the relationship, so you need to redefine the relationship between you two. That alone should be reason enough to go your separate ways and work something out for co-parenting or visitation rights (because (assuming the relationship can be healthy), separating from you does not necessarily require separating from the kids). It's not fair to any of you to continue in your current arrangement if it's not mutually beneficial.

However, I highly recommend sitting down -- ideally with a counsellor trained in this -- and taking a hard look at the relationship you two have, so that you can go forward with confidence in whatever route you take.

Additionally, I highly recommend the book More Than Two. While it's geared toward poly relationships, it's one of the best relationship books I've read, because it shines a light on the hidden issues of toxic relationships (many of which may be able to be glossed over and fester for years and even decades in a monogamous relationship, poisoning the relationship from the inside until extensive damage is done) and how to avoid and fix them. It also teaches that it's okay to have boundaries and desires in a relationship, and that it's okay to assert them, and if a romantic relationship doesn't work out, it's okay to leave it before you hate each other.

If I were in your shoes, I'd wash my hands of him at least when it came to my personal relationship with him, and play it by ear when it comes to his relationship with the kids. I don't know who moved where and when, but if he really wants to be involved with the kids, he can put forth some effort for visits instead of expecting you to move to him.

Being a single parent isn't a forever thing unless you choose it to be, and it's not going to irreparably damage your kids to live in a single parent household. By refusing to be strung along, you open yourself up to the opportunity of a better relationship, with someone whom you can trust and that will have no problem committing to you and your kids.

(For some perspective -- a friend of mine had a toxic relationship with her ex, so she left with her youngest, who was only a baby at the time. This opened up the opportunity for her now-husband to come into her life and step up as her son's father in a supportive, equal, healthy relationship. The boy is far, far better off in the blended environment than he would have been in the toxic one with his biological father.)

  • thanks for the thoughtful feedback. These are all thoughts that I have had at one time or another, and if he were asking me to move to Mozambique or something like that, the answer would be "heck no." But he's asking me to move back closer to both our families and most of my friends, and has demonstrated at least some improvement on each of the things you've mentioned, apart from commitment to me (e.g. He's been making a point to babysit his 1-yr-old nephew a lot so he'll be better able to take care of our new baby when it comes). Also our son LOVES him and is very sad he's not around. – anon Jun 29 '17 at 17:29
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    +1 for the good answer. It's truly amazing how many victims of abuse don't realize they are being abused because of gaslighting, or just lack of confidence in their own perceptions. – anongoodnurse Jun 29 '17 at 21:44
  • I upvoted you as even though I dont agree with some of the points, I do also accept some of them could well be true. There are elements in the original text that can be read as abusive, reading it flat on the page. – bigbadmouse Jun 30 '17 at 8:31
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I live with my partner (the mother of my children) and I dont see the need to marry, and an unwillingness to marry doesnt necessarily imply a lack of care or an unwillingness to commit or to accept responsibility. I see it as a very expensive affirmation of something that works well just as it is.

I do see why youre being cautious but since you dont state why "(he)doesn't care for me a tenth part of what I care for him", its hard to make a call. Maybe his perspective on care is different than yours and maybe he's not good at showing it (I'm not perfect at that). He's given you a ring; I never got that far and I dont need to. How he treats you, and how he treats your children is the yardstick by which I would measure your relationship, not the metalwork that might adorn it.

You say "neither of us like that situation, because he doesn't get to be around our son", suggests he wants to be. I'd try it but hold off any more kids until things get clearer. Make him work for that dream of more children by being a great parent and partner, and as a man I'd say tell him exactly that so he knows exactly what you expect and more importantly why. We miss stuff, so make it obvious.

  • Thanks, I appreciate having a dad's perspective on this. He certainly treats our son well, and when it comes to treatment of me... well, I will admit that he has been much better the last few weeks, and I'm tempted to give it a try, even though it seems like most of my friends are vehemently against it. A commitment, btw, is not expensive. Rings and weddings are (or at least can be). – anon Jun 27 '17 at 14:22
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    Just because you don't see the need to marry doesn't mean it isn't there. In fact the OP specified her needs. She needs someone she can count on. Marrying doesn't guarantee anything, but it is a strong signal. Real men take responsibility for others, not just themselves. This guy is not displaying the level of commitment you are implying about yourself. The OP never said she wanted 'metalwork' as you mention. She said she wants a committed man she can count on as she dedicates her life to being a mother. – Adam Heeg Jun 27 '17 at 16:02
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    @Pascal yeah that's a lame way to subsidize not marrying on the part of the government – Craig Jun 27 '17 at 19:01
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    @adam heeg, just because I'm not married doesn't make me uncommitted or irresponsible. Responsiblity and commitment are a state of mind. – bigbadmouse Jun 28 '17 at 15:10
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    @MAA "When he has started to get angry in the last month or two he has been able to recognize when it is unwarranted and stop himself and apologize" this is a difficult road to tread and if he's even started doing this, then I see it as very positive. Counselling just doesn't work for some people, they need to work it through for themselves in their own time, or with people they know. I know this as its me. – bigbadmouse Jun 29 '17 at 8:02
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My first child was an unplanned pregnancy, and before he was born, his father and I decided to try living together. After our son was born, he told me he wanted to have more kids, and when I asked if that meant he wanted to commit to our relationship, he told me no.

It seems that he has made his decision but likes leading you on. I sense you would like him to be part of the children's lives, it is safe that he knows this and is taking advantage of your good nature.

He's wavered some in the last three years over committing - he even gave me a ring at one point. However, this spring I again became accidentally pregnant and I pushed the issue, with the result that he came out forcefully opposed to marrying/formally committing to me - though he is very excited about the baby and still wants to have more.

Of course, he wants more, you are allowing him to waltz in and out of these children's lives without having to take serious responsibility for you or the children, who would not want that kind of setup in regards to child raising?

You should for your own sake not have more children with this man, get on the contraceptives and make sure you do not have more children with this man if he is the controlling type get the injections.

At this point we are living in different states, but neither of us like that situation because he doesn't get to be around our son. He wants me to move to where he is and live with him again before our second son is born in three-ish months, but remains adamantly opposed to commit to me. I'm not sure what to do.

Make a clean break for it, children having to witness their mother being used is much worse than having their father live outside the house.

Moving to where he is would put us a lot closer to both of our families, which would be a good thing, and it would give both of my sons a better chance to have good relationships with their dad, which might be more important.

Your children having good relationships with their father is not your responsibility, it is his. If the there father does not commit to you then really that is his problem.

It is incredible to me that not only does he expect you to leave everything and move to where he is but you are actually considering doing it, does that not take you as being selfish on his part?

If he really wants his children in his life as badly as you make it out then living near to them (Even if not in the same house) should not be impossible.

In closing, maybe you should go and see some sort of professional help in the form of therapy. You seem to be in a relationship where you are being used and for you and your children's sake I would think it good for you to get to the root of your issues.

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It's unclear what the exact meaning of "committing" is in your question.

  • Is he refusing exclusivity, yet you want him to be faithful?
  • Does he not like the idea of marriage?
  • Does he not like certain aspects of the idea of marriage, e.g. the wedding, or the religion?

If you like him, and he likes you, and the relationship is otherwise working well, I suggest you sacrifice the idea of "marriage", but insist on getting the legal issues out of the way (life insurance, child support, a will, etc). Depending on where you live, to do so may involve getting married on paper, but in many places there are other options as well.

P.S: You mention that you worry about living with someone who could leave you at any time: Marriage does not change that. Trust does. If this question is not about marriage but about a lack of trust, some of the other answers apply.

  • Maybe we should close this question - MAA says above " Thanks everyone for your feedback. The general sense I have gotten is that IF I feel like the situation is not abusive, AND that he would be good for the kids, it's probably worth it to give it a shot. (NOT having more kids under the current circumstances, but living together for co-parenting and so the kids we have can be with both parents). Thanks again, I feel like I've gotten good help with thinking about this, and do not need more at this time" that she has enough to work with. – bigbadmouse Jul 4 '17 at 9:28

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